By FATHER JOHN C. KIERAN, Commentary | Published November 3, 2016
Father Kieran is on the board of Visitation Hospital in Haiti and visited in late October after Hurricane Matthew. He said damage was visible around the hospital but the facility itself is intact. As access to the worst-hit areas of Haiti, Les Cayes and Jeremie, is being strictly controlled, he was not able to visit those areas. His report follows.
“My house just flew away,” said a father-survivor following Hurricane Matthew in southwest Haiti. Estimates say there are now 1 million homeless in that devastated area.
The brutal force of Matthew decimated the western peninsula, tearing out native trees, crops and housing, leaving the landscape like a flattened pancake laced with sticks and stones. In just a few minutes the sustainable food base for millions was destroyed and it will take years to reestablish farming and crop production. At present, thousands are trying to make do under tarps stretched over the teetering remains of home or shed. A Red Cross worker said, “The effects of Matthew are beyond comprehension without seeing for one’s self.”
Aid agencies frantically try to provide basic materials and food. Safe clean water is a high priority. Disrupted water sources and broken pipes tempt people to drink groundwater, which is highly contaminated. The greatest fear is that deadly cholera will reappear.
I marvel at the resilience of the Haitian people. Despite the magnitude-7.0 earthquake in 2010, the cholera epidemic in 2012 and now Matthew, the people still struggle on with amazing good faith. They have been accustomed to surviving on very little by U.S. standards; still, they steadfastly wait in hope for the good that lies beyond their present distress.
Hundreds of U.S church groups are ameliorating hope for the storm victims and the poor in Haiti. One sees a constant flow of aid workers passing through Port-au-Prince airport; missionaries, evangelists, health care folk, agronomists, builders, all generating hope through their Christian action, done in unison with the local people.
Parishes in the archdiocese—and all across the country—sister with parishes in Haiti, often forming long-time associations and reciprocally receive blessed rewards. Thus St. Pius X Parish in Conyers has a 16-year stint with the parish in Los Palis. Other local parishes annually send out teams of parishioners to share their giftedness and resources with the less fortunate in Haiti.
Recently, I went out to witness the damage caused by Matthew and give encouragement to the staff at Visitation Hospital, in Petite-Riviere-de-Nippes. Visitation is about 50 kilometers east of Jeremie, the city hardest hit in southwest Haiti. I am happy to report that due to reinforced construction, our hospital was not harmed in the storm and not a day was lost in caring for patients. The Haitian staff members work harmoniously, seeing all comers to address their medical, dental and eye care needs. Since opening in 2008, the hospital has served over 130,000 patients. Our trained midwives assist birthing and do follow-up care. Our clean water treatment program has eliminated parasite infestation in infants throughout the entire region.
I am deeply grateful, as are the patients at Visitation, for the gifts of support given by the people of the archdiocese. Your funds are mending lives and are directly aiding the victims of Matthew who seek help at Visitation Hospital Foundation.
For further information, please contact Father John Kieran at email@example.com or 770-312-6074. The website for the hospital is www.visitationhospital.org.